This Spanish town is tucked inside a castle

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For eight centuries, a good part of the province of Cádiz was under Muslim rule, requiring a line of defense against the Christians in the north. In it, the castles and fortresses were the stone sentinels that protected the southern kingdoms. One of these fortresses has survived to this day, housing an entire town: it is Castellar Castle in the Cadiz municipality of Castellar de la Frontera.

Next, we take a tour of this town-fortress, walking through its streets and looking out from its viewpoints and then getting to know the rest of the municipality and its surroundings, which include one of the largest natural parks in Spain: The Cork Oaks.

Castellar Castle: a town-fortress in Cádiz

Castellar Castle – Source: Depositphotos

It seems incredible that this town that looks spectacular in the middle of the green mantle of the Campo de Gibraltar was threatened by the neighbor’s construction Guadarranque reservoir. It was in the early 70s when the Institute of Agrarian Reform and Development promoted the construction of the New Town of Castellar, eight kilometers southeast of the primitive fortress where the vast majority of the residents went.

Because living in a castle can be very “nice”, but the complicated orography and the difficult access by road caused many residents to pack their bags to live a little less isolated and better connected in the new town.

But a few neighbors, joined by travelers from other countries, soon realized that Castellar Castle could be a treasure for rural tourism offering the people a second youth.

Castellar Castle - Source: Depositphotos
Castellar Castle – Source: Depositphotos

With an elongated structure adapted to the promontory on which the fortress was built, Castellar Castle is half an hour north of Algeciras. Two parking lots (one to the southwest and one to the north) allow us to leave the car and continue the visit on foot.

At the entrance to the fortress, two crenellated towers stand out, informing us of the relationship of this construction with the Nasrid style that triumphed in the Alhambra of Granada. And Castellar Castle was not conquered by the Christians until 1434. The great-grandson of the leader of that conquest, Juan de Saavedra, received the title of Count of Castellar from Charles I: inside the fortress is located the quarterdeck which was the residence for centuries of the descendants of Saavedra.

But what really dazzles the traveler are the narrow and winding streets which denote its late medieval origin, in addition to the popular rural architecture: they are whitewashed houses with one or gable Arabic tiles, generally single-family in nature. Many of them have been restored recently when the town began to be a regular tourist destination, becoming restaurants or apartments, as well as a hotel that occupies part of the old castle.

Castellar Castle - Source: Wikimedia
Castellar Castle – Source: Wikimedia

And if the history and architecture lesson is not enough, Castellar Castle also has its instagrammable corner: it is known as Balcony of the Loversthe best viewpoint in the town so you can enjoy the environment that we will visit next.

Legend tells us that a young man went up to this balcony every full moon night to enjoy the beauty projected by the Guadarranque River. But one day he was captivated by the beauty projected by the emir’s daughter. And the full moon nights They were witnesses of their love.

Of course, the story did not end well as soon as the emir found out about the affair. By the way, another less glossy “legend” tells us that this balcony was used to throw the waste from the castle to the street. But we’d better stick with the full moon, right?

The surroundings of Castellar Castle

Los Alcornocales - Source: Depositphotos
Los Alcornocales – Source: Depositphotos

There is no doubt that the town-fortress is the most genuine part of Castellar de la Frontera, but this Cadiz municipality does not end at the top of the promontory. To the south of the fortress you have to go through the Convent of San Miguel de La Almoraimaa delightful 17th century building, also restored to become a hotel.

And on the other side of the road, the new town with its collection of urban sculpture among which the Monument to the Farmer stands out, the Monument to the Foundation of Castellar Nuevo that remembers its connection with the sister town-fortress to the north or the 25th Anniversary Monument La Boyal, a pasture of more than 500 hectares that for centuries belonged to the counts of Castellar and for which the town fought until it became municipal.

Linked to this pasture we find the La Calzada Dehesa Boyal Trailone of the best ways to explore the surroundings of Castellar de la Frontera on foot: it is a linear route that starts from the La Jarandilla restaurant in a northerly direction, passing through the castle and offering views of the neighboring reservoir and which it offers us in the last section a visit to the anthropomorphic tombs from pre-Roman times that show us the remote past of this land: neither Christians nor Muslims were the first to arrive.

But one of the natural jewels of the province of Cádiz is located right here, around Castellar de la Frontera: it is the Alcornocales Natural Park170,000 hectares of protected land, which encompasses up to 17 municipalities in Cadiz and one in Malaga, the largest cork oak forest in Spain.

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